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Press Contact: Mary Ann Merker, Civic Arts Coordinator, (510) 981-7533

Where I'm From, on display at the Addison Street Windows Gallery is an exhibit of student poetry and photographic portraits

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, February 18, 2009) - Passers-by the Addison Street Windows Gallery will be treated to the results of an extrordinary high school student project-- an exhibit of student poetry and photographic portraits that comes after Richmond High School students spent a semester interviewing the elders in their community.

"Where I'm From" is the culmination of a course conducted by writer Summer Brenner and photographer Ruth Morgan, who took the photos for the show.

Addison Street Windows Gallery
2018 Addison Street, Berkeley, Calif.
Exhibit: March 2 to April 11, 2009
Sidewalk Reception: Sunday, March 8, at 4 p.m. (Free)

The exhibition is free, wheelchair accessible, and on view 24 hours a day.   

"Where I'm From" is an inter-generational oral history and poetry project in which the students set out to find where are they from and to whom do they belong. The project evolved from a belief that family stories can help guide youth, validate elders, and provide an intersection for their shared experiences. Each week the Richmond High School students met to discuss migration and genealogy; practice interview techniques; design an interview questionnaire; and conduct interviews that formed the basis for poems about themselves as well as family members and leaders in the community.  

The project is named after and based on the poetry format that inspired it. The format consists of a dozen or more lines beginning with the phrase: "I'm from," followed by a blank space with an instruction to complete the line with place names, the names of family members, favorite foods, etc., and is often used by teachers to entice students to reflect upon themselves and their surroundings.

"Where I'm From" was designed to achieve three primary goals: to train students to conduct oral history interviews with older relatives; to have the students write poems inspired by these interviews; and to create a community exhibit of student writings, with accompanying photographs of the students and their family members.

The students gleaned new information and unexpected advice, and they recognized decisive crossroads similar to their own. The interviewees were also grateful for the opportunity to express themselves. As Ruby Jean Fox told her great-granddaughter, "Nobody ever asks you to sit down and tell them about your life, and by the time they think of it, it's too late."

The interviewees included an African-American whose family fled Louisiana under death threats and who himself was a draft resistor during the Vietnam War; a Mexican-American who grew up in San Diego during the Great Depression and moved to Richmond after the Korean War; an Irish-American whose immigrant parents raised nine children in a nearby two-bedroom house; and a Chinese-American whose parents were engaged at six months in a remote district of rural China.

Community Works, sponsors of the project, has  produced several outstanding exhibits of youth art with important social themes. Community Works engages youth and adults in arts and education programs that interrupt and heal the far-reaching impact of incarceration and violence by strengthening individuals, families and communities.

The Addison Street Windows Gallery is a project of the Civic Arts Program of the City of Berkeley in cooperation with the Civic Arts Commission.

For information about this show contact: Ruth Morgan at email: community_works@yahoo.com,  for information about the Windows Gallery please contact the curator of the Addison Street Windows at (510) 981-7546, or Mary Ann Merker, Civic Arts Coordinator at (510) 981-7533.


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